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Fossils of almost 70 mammoths have been found at the future site of a Mexican airport. Source: INAH

Here Come the Mammoths, 60 of Them, Unearthed at Mexican Airport

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Bones of more than 60 mammoths have been unearthed at the location of a new Mexican international airport. Last November I wrote an Ancient Origins news article about anthropologists from  Mexicos National Institute of Anthropology and History  (INAH) discovering two mammoth hunting pits (traps) in the neighborhood of Tultepec, just north of Mexico City. Titled the world's “first mammoth traps,” it is thought that the ancient hunters may have chased the mammoths into the pits, where there would have been battered to death, and some of the bones showed evidence of butchery.

Archaeologists have found this site filled with mammoth fossils in Mexico. (INAH)

Archaeologists have found this site filled with mammoth fossils in Mexico. ( INAH)

Now, archaeologists excavating near this site, in the town of Santa Lucia in the central Mexican state of Mexico State, have unearthed almost 70 fossilized mammoths while clearing land for a new airport. Anthropologists have confirmed they had likely been “ hunted down by Neolithic humans 15,000 years ago,” according to a press release by the INAH.

A Mexican Mammoth Causeway

Researchers had believed about a dozen mammoths would be found at the Mexican excavation site, but the team discovered the remains of nearly 70 specimens. Standing at 15 ft. (4.57 meters) tall and weighing in excess of 22,000 pounds, with an estimated lifespan of around 65 years, the tusks of the Columbian mammoth could grow up to 16 ft (4.88 meters) long, but this species had much less fur than their woolly cousins living in the northern tundra.

The Mexican archaeologists found the fossilized remains of almost 70 mammoths. (INAH)

The Mexican archaeologists found the fossilized remains of almost 70 mammoths. ( INAH)

According to a report in Heritage Daily , Pedro Francisco Sanchez Nava, the National Coordinator of Anthropology at the INAH, told local media that alongside “more than sixty Columbian mammoths” other fauna from the Pleistocene (epoch) like bison, a camel, and bits of horse were discovered. And it’s thought that some of these plant-eating giants lived more than 35,000 years ago, while the beasts dating to 14,000 years ago may have been “ trapped by humans ” who hunted in this region.

More than 60 mammoths and other fauna from the Pleistocene epoch were discovered at the Mexican site. (INAH)

More than 60 mammoths and other fauna from the Pleistocene epoch were discovered at the Mexican site. ( INAH)

And while today an airport is being built on the space, the area was once a body of water called Xaltocan Lake, located at the intersection of four separate valleys so it acted like “a natural corridor,” according to INAH.

Mammoths at the Heart of Early Human Communities

Mr. Sanchez Nava said he thinks 15,000 years ago humans may have observed the natural mammoth passage and may have “organized as a society to hunt them.” Mr. Sanchez Nava also said his team of “31 archaeologists and three restorers” are working at the site while the new airport is being built and there are plans in place to build a new mammoth museum at the airport to offer visitors an insight into what life was like in the region more than 35,000 years ago.

Bones of the prehistoric creatures found at the site of a future Mexican international airport. (INAH)

Bones of the prehistoric creatures found at the site of a future Mexican international airport. ( INAH)

At this rate, 2020 might be remembered as the year of the mammoth, for earlier this year I wrote another Ancient Origins news piece about researchers in Russia studying three magnificent “mammoth-bone” structures dating to 24,000 BC. Archaeologist Alexander Pryor and his team of researchers from the University of Exeter in England published a study which declared one of these huts as “the oldest building” ever erected by Homo sapiens. This ancient architectural marvel would have been covered with animal skins and it is thought that a series of surrounding pits had originally been quarried for loess to use in construction. Afterwards they may have served as food and fuel storage spaces and also for waste.

Considering the discovery of these mammoth-bone huts in Russia, the Mexican mammoth hunting pits found in November last year, and now this new site, it seems this gargantuan beast played a central role in the formation of early human communities and may have led to the thinking processes and skills required to hunt, which are not that different to the social organization and management procedures needed to build. And maybe much more…

The Mammoth Legacy of Ancient Hunter-Builders

Archaeologist Paul Bahn s 1995 book, ‘ 100 Great Archaeological Discoveries ,’ describes mammoth-bone huts as the “earliest examples of monumental architecture,” and building a monumental anything requires a community with extra time and resources.

Furthermore, monumentality also suggests deep-seated religious beliefs, therefore, it might be the case that mammoth hunting also brought about the birth of organized religion. I mean, there is no doubting that even the most hardened atheist would drop to his knees and pray if he had been selected to participate in a deadly mammoth hunt!

Top Image: Fossils of almost 70 mammoths have been found at the future site of a Mexican airport. Source: INAH

By Ashley Cowie

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